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Thousands flock to NY State Fair to register for STAR exemptions

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Navigating through the Center of Progress Building at the New York State Fair is always a little difficult. But this year, it isn't the crowds at the cookware or candy booths that's creating roadblocks. Fairgoers are flocking to the New York State Taxation and Finance booth after getting letters last week explaining the need to register.

"We have a little bit of a line here. Can you wait?"

Never has the taxation and finance booth been so popular at the state fair. The crowds are coming to register with the state tax department to keep their basic STAR property tax exemption coming. This is the first time in 15 years that the STAR, or School Tax Relief program, has forced homeowners to register with the state. In the past, local assessors have taken care of the exemption that can only be applied to one property statewide, says State Taxation and Finance Commissioner Thomas Mattox.

"The reason why we're doing it, is that local assessors really don't have the ability to look across the more than one thousand municipalities to see if someone has taken more than one exemption," Mattox explained.

He says with the state handling the STAR exemption instead of local assessors, there's less room for abuse.

"We completed a study in 2011 that suggested there were some instances of folks taking more than one exemption," Mattox said. "It's one of the reasons were were strongly in favor of doing a registration, so we could ensure that only eligible people receive the benefit."

Mattox says those who register for the STAR exemption can cut their tax bill by an average of $700. So far, taxation department worker Camille Siano Enders says she's seen about 1,000 taxpayers a day ask questions.

"There seems to be kind of a split, between 'I'm here to register for STAR,' and they even bring their litter, and 'I heard I have to do something, what do I have to do,'" Enders said.

If you can't make it to the fair to register, you can do it online. The deadline is December 31.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.